Thursday, 15 December 2016

Space Invader Strikes Back!

Interview with the UK Reactivation Team

Photos Dave Stuart except where stated

Planet Earth faces invasion and the insidious arrival of aliens has been going on for years with few people noticing. This is not the formulaic plot of yet another sci fi blockbuster, this is an invasion of street art masterminded by a secretive French street artist known only as Space Invader.

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_044
All hearts for LDN_044

A love of Space Invader’s mosaic pixel street art comes naturally to that generation of street art afficionadoes that came of age with early generation console games providing the most advanced “race into space” era addictive technology buzz. Scoff not ye youngsters, paddle tennis had us obsessed and Space Invaders on arcade machines saw many a precious pound note converted into 10p pieces. It is not merely a nostalgia trip though, a Space Invader mosaic located high on someone else's building in a built up part of London was a marvel, how did he get it there!!

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_055
LDN_055 - 30 points

Over the years many Space Invaders fell prey to age and avarice, it seems that there are people who think that Space Invaders can be sold in some kind of nightmare trade in the stolen artefacts of someone else’s vandalism. Thankfully, a small band of heroes calling themselves the UK Reactivation Team are coming to the rescue and reinstalling old, long lost iconic Space Invaders.

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_058
LDN_058 - a measly 10 points

Thanks to the magic of technology, Graffoto has secured a private interview with the anonymous UK Reactivation Team which sort of addresses the who, why, what and where. I’m kidding about the “who?” bit actually, you didn’t think that was going to be revealed did you? Space Invader, despite a significant cameo in Banksy’s street art documentary “Exit Through The Gift Shop”, is himself notoriously secretive so it feels appropriate the UK Reactivation Team should follow invader’s lead. The force shield around their identity is impenetrable.

Reactivation work - in progress
LDN_73 Photo: Reactivation Team UK

We came together as a handful of street art lovers that felt upset and annoyed that so many street pieces by Invader have been removed. We wouldn't be doing this if people would stop removing them thinking they can make money out of them”.

The “no shit Sherlock” revelation embedded in that statement is that the UK Reactivation Team is not Invader himself, though these guys have previously disclosed via their instagram account an important tacit approval from Invader HQ:

A final special Thank You to @invaderwashere for allowing us to form the team and put his trust in us to Reactivate his amazing works of art

Reactivated Space Invader - LDN_048
LDN_048 hits Warp Speed - 20 points

The ambition of these guys doesn’t limit itself to the smaller “fit in your DJ bag” sized invaders, when pressed to see if they would follow the lead of the French Reactivation Team who have reactivated really big Invaders in Paris (e.g. PA758), the UK Reactivation Team declare yes why not, one day. Major space cadet badge stars and intergalactic worship shall follow if they manage to reactivate this enormous baby:

Vintage Space Invader LDN_101
"LDN_99, I Am Your Father" - LDN_101

As they boldly go forth, the Reactivation Mission isn’t limited to just cloning the old invaders, several disfigured and damaged mosaics now look in pristine condition thanks to some judicious cleaning and replacement of missing parts.

Vintage Space Invader LDN_054
LDN_054 - Potential TLC Mission

But what happens if the wall that the original Invader took up station on no longer exists?

If the wall has gone then obviously the invader is dead.

Oringinal Space Invader
LDN_75, Original invasion target: Dragon Bar, Shoreditch. Mission terminated. (photo Sep 2007)

In their opening “Mission Profile” briefing, the UK Reactivation team announced that 65% of the London Invaders had been “stolen or destroyed. London’s invaders have so far arrived in 18 waves and a total of 150 invaders have taken up station on London streets, so shaking these numbers about a little suggests the UK Reactivation Team has pretty close to 100 missing-in-action soldiers to reactivate in London. These ambitious Space Rescue guys recognise the galaxy is bigger than just London. We hope to reactivate all the missing/stolen space invaders in the U.K. Already they have reactivated a couple in Manchester (012, 026, the later now gone again) and a quartet in Newcastle (003, 006, 015, 022).

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_009
LDN_009 - now a pillar of society. 20 points.

Space Invaders do not operate in a vacuum, international alliances have been formed with French and Dutch reactivation teams; the UK and Dutch Reactivation Teams share intelligence and the French Reactivation Team has helped with advice and installation, no frontiers shall hold back the Reactivators.

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_033
LDN_033 - 10 points

One slightly tricky issues arises from the project and it’s to do with the ephemerality of street art, we have to ask – should lost Space Invaders be reactivated? Space Invader doesn’t have an issue with it, these reactivation guys are dedicated to their work and I and many others are delighted to see old friends taking up station once more on London’s walls.

We like to see the Invaders in the street, if someone removes them we don't have to just shrug our shoulders and say "it is what it is" If we want to put them back then we will do just that.. and the best thing is others appreciate that view and like to see them too”!

The process of reactivation has actually become an art project in itself. The whole craftsmanship of reproduction, the planning and the installation, the decisions on what invaders to reactivate at what time, all has a complex beauty that still wows but the finished work is what matters.

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_048
Lurking. LDN_048 - 20 points

A particularly furtive red faced blue eyed invader re-appeared in May this year on the front of Harper and Tom’s flower shop in Notting Hill, neither Sophie who has worked there for a year nor Alex, 4 years, recall the original. I thought it was cool when I saw, it looked like a cool bit of tiling, it was like some kind of street art or something said Sophie.

Space Invader created a smartphone App for tracking scouts to seek out and “flash” the invaders, coordination with Space Invader HQ means the reactivated invaders work on the app so these are no mere facsimiles of invaders, they are officially recognised as fully functioning invaders. In researching preparing this star (b)log my Invader app score went from 1200 to 1550 driving me up to the giddy heights of the top 2300s on the scores list!

INvader Ap
On the very cusp of the top 2221!

Speaking of craftsmanship and creation/recreation, just what are the invaders reactivated from?

Sourcing the correct tiles is sometimes easy sometimes impossible, it does limit some reactivations going ahead, but you'd be surprised where some of them pop up from.
said the UK Reactivation Team

UK Space Invader Reactivation
LDN_091, Photo: UK Reactivation Team

UK Space Invader Reactivation
Sid LDN_073, Photo: UK Reactivation Team

At the time of writing, a grand total of 21 London space invaders have now been reactivated, one or two have had a deep clean pampering session and there are also a total of six reactivated invaders in Manchester and Newcastle. In addition to the photos above of reactivated London invaders, a photo collection of completed London reactivation missions to date follows below.

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_001
LDN_001 - London was warned! 30 points

tn_DSC_0408 copy
Shaken, not stirred - LDN_007 10 points

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_013
Phone home - LDN_013 - 20 points

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_021
LDN_021 - 20 points

Reactivated Space Invader - LDN_034
Exploring forbidden planets LDN_034 - 10 points

Reactivated Space Invader - LDN_045
Can Al get 10 points for flashing LDN_045?

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_051
This is not Greece. True or False? LDN_051 - 10 points

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_053
Saree for the poor photo. LDN_053 - 10 points

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_082
Bear with us. LDN_082 - 20 points

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_083
No parking actually. LDN_083 - 30 points

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_091
As broad as it is long LDN_091 - 20 points

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_092
Fancy a 3-some? LDN_092 - 30 points

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_097
Almost riveting LDN_097 - 30 points

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_099
Spying on unwashed Richards LDN_099 - 30 points

Go scan the skies, monitor the Reactivation Team's instagram account and scour the streets, those invaders are watching you from the walls, waiting for you to go and flash them.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Stik That In Yer Auction

Loathe though we are to see street art pieces being removed from the streets and entering in the commercial market on this occasion, a piece of Stik street art to be auctioned has Stik’s blessing so I guess we can be ok with it.

Stik Magpie
Photo via Stik

From a message issued by Stik:

Street Artist Stik has agreed to authenticate and approve the sale of a street art piece he once painted on the front of the Magpie Social Centre in Bristol. This piece appeared in 2009 on the front wall of the not-for-profit social centre which was evicted earlier this year and is currently looking for a new premises.

Magpie Social Centre

Stik states: “The Magpie Social Centre was one of the free spaces that actively encouraged street art and helped me to become the artist I am today. I don’t generally approve of the sale of street pieces but here I will make an exception. It gives me great pleasure to authenticate this piece so that Magpie can continue to support the next generation of artists.”

Stik only authenticates street artworks when all proceeds benefit the community they were painted for. The artist was approached by the community centre earlier this year and helped set up the sale with London auction house Phillips. The piece titled ‘Magpie’ has been preserved, framed and logged and comes with a certificate of authenticity.

End message quote

The Stik piece being auctioned tomorrow is more clearly visible in a photo I took back then:

tn_DSC_1240 copy
Photo: Dave Stuart

More details about the auction were released in a later message which came in from Stik today:

Stik met with the director of Magpie Project Space this week to authenticate the fundraiser sale on Thursday 8th December at Phillips Auction. Seen here at the private view the sale is expected to raise enough funds to rehouse the community centre.

Stik with Natty Lee form Magpie Social Centre at Phillips Auction Private view.
Stik with Natty Lee from Magpie Social Centre at Phillips Auction Private view. Photo via Stik

Details of the piece are:
STIK – Magpie
Lot 90, Phillips
New Now
London Auction
8 December 2016

Signed, dated and authenticated 'STIK 2009 2016' on the reverse. Spray paint on wood, in artist's frame.
139 x 29.8 cm (54 3/4 x 11 3/4 in.)
Executed in 2009. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the artist's studio.
£8,000 - 12,000

To participate in this rare opportunity to acquire an authenticated street piece:
Contact Specialist
Simon Tovey
Head of Sale
+44 20 7318 4084

End Stik’s second message quote

Interestingly there is no real disclosure regarding the ownership of the actual property that the Stik piece was painted on though the catalogue confirms, as indeed Stik also does, that it is a genuine Stik authenticated by the artist and the catalogue baldly states “Provenance: Magpie Social Centre”. Doubtless Phillips will have done their homework to establish who owned the piece of property that the Stik is painted on and the proof is likely to be buried in legal property or lease agreements. They will have done that won’t they? At least the photo I took is pretty conclusive that the Stik piece was indeed a fixture within the property occupied by the Magpie Social Centre.

On the surface it feels like this has a lot of similarities with the famous case in Bristol where Banksy’s Mobile Lovers was removed by the proprietor of the Riverside Boys Club and which ultimately led to Banksy authenticating the street piece and using language very similar to Stik’s to confirm that he was ok with it being sold as a fund raiser for the Boy’s Club. The clear difference is that while Banksy’s Mobile Lover was almost certainly done without permission, Stik is likely to have had the blessing of the Magpie Social Centre to create his work.

All photos via Stik except Dave Stuart where stated.